DAN PARKER IN ‘DRIVEN BLIND’ DEBUTS ON WORLD TV
Since early this year, Driven Blind, a 25-minute documentary about Pro Mod driver and chassis builder Dan Parker, who was permanently blinded in a 2012 racing accident, has been making the rounds and winning awards at independent film festivals nationwide. This Sunday (Apr. 15) at 9:30 p.m., the short film will also make its televised debut on the World Channel (WorldChannel.org) digital network.
“The film just talks about the struggles of blindness, about me adapting to being blind, and just how life changes when everything you’re used to changes: your job, your passions, just everything,” the 2005 American Drag Racing League Pro Nitrous world champion explains.
Additional airings of Driven Blind will follow on Monday at 1:30 p.m. and on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. as part of World Channel’s Reel South series, hosted by Grammy-winning recording star Darius Rucker, before entering limited rotation on the PBS broadcasting network.
To commemorate the event, Parker has arranged for the Tuesday evening show to be projected on a big screen in the auditorium of Jordan High School (3200 Howard Ave., Columbus, GA 31904), where he currently works as a machine shop teacher. Parker plans to give a brief introductory talk before Driven Blind begins, then will take questions from the audience once it wraps up.
“We’re expecting about a hundred or so people,” he says. “We’ve been inviting family and friends, school faculty and everyone locally in the blind community, as well as anyone who lives or works with someone who’s blind. I think this is a great opportunity for the blind community to get out and interact with the sighted community.”
Within months of his life-changing crash, Parker began personally constructing a three-wheeled “cycle car” powered by a single-cylinder engine that he eventually drove at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. In August 2014 he set an official speed record for the 50-cc to 85-cc cycle car class—with no exemption for blindness—at 62.05 miles per hour.
“But the trike was just a stepping stone because I knew if I ever wanted to run something fast again, I had to first get my foot in the door,” Parker says. Currently, he is building a 2008 Corvette race car in which he plans to go more than 210 miles per hour and become the world’s fastest totally blind driver. To maintain the correct path he relies on an in-helmet audio system that beeps faster and louder in either his left or right ear if he deviates from a straight line. “That way I can respond and drive without human assistance, without anyone in the car with me,” Parker says.
More than two years in the making, Driven Blind started in the summer of 2015 as the Master’s thesis for Fine Arts students Scott Schimmel and Geoff Groberg at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Upon graduating, Schimmel continued work on the project alone, shooting additional footage until last summer before editing nearly 30 hours of material down to the final cut by December.
“To hold a film for 25 minutes, to hold a story for longer than a minute or two, you need people to be engaged,” explains Schimmel, now a professor at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “What amazes me about Dan is that he has ups and downs just like everybody else, but it's about how he looks at those and keeps pushing. His attitude is what keeps things going.
“I think even beyond racing, you know, what I hope with this film is that people will see it and feel inspired that no matter what challenges they're dealing with in life, if they keep a positive attitude and keep at it they'll hopefully succeed or at least feel better,” he adds. “I don't know if I would say it started out that way, but that's what the story became. That's the deeper meaning of the story that I see.”
The screening of Driven Blind on Tuesday includes free admission, but Parker and his teammates will gratefully accept donations toward furthering the new car’s build, which they are documenting online at facebook.com/DanParkerQuestForTheSalt.